Design Forward, a San Diego conference in its second year, did not disappoint. Centered around creative thinking and infusing human-centered design into business, it featured speakers from a variety of backgrounds and industries, from architects to healthcare, and truly brought a wide array of perspectives on how businesses can approach design to drive results and make an impact. If you were there and didn’t go home charged up and inspired, there’s a chance you might have spent too much time in the outdoor hammock lounge.

Here are the top 5 quotes that really stood out:

1. “The goal of the designer is to trigger the right response.”

– Phil Gilbert, General Manager of Design, IBM

BlogPostArtwork_DF17_3This really tapped into something. Design is not a surface event; it appears in every aspect of a company, whether it was intended or not. As a user experience designer, I spend a lot of time strategizing ways to achieve conversions. Design can elicit many reactions, emotions and associations – it can simplify a complex process, reduce tension, eliminate fear, create a sense of urgency, it can excite or motivate. The designer’s goal is to identify what that response should be, and craft an experience that leads the user down that path. More than merely a layer of decoration, companies who understand this about design have a powerful advantage, and can utilize this to shape the perception of their business in the market.

2. “Your non-design decisions are themselves design decisions.”

– Jared Erondu, Head of Design, Lattice

BlogPostArtwork_DF17_1When businesses choose not to invest in design, that is in itself a design decision. It is a choice in how they present themselves and their offerings to the world. In essence, design is in everything; if the way it’s experienced by your customers is intentional and well-thought out, you’re already ahead of the game.

3. “Don’t trust your assumptions. Always do the research”

–  Hoa Loranger, Vice President, Nielsen Norman Group

BlogPostArtwork_DF17_2Hoa’s workshop provided some great insights on user research and the takeaway here is that you should never replace research with assumption. Research can have a pivotal impact when creating a website or product, and data should be present when making decisions about features, user paths, or any visual or functional attribute. Hoa presented the room with a minor exercise – After showing a screen with photos of 4 different people, and 4 different websites, we were tasked with matching each person to the website they visited. Nearly every one of us assumed wrong. For example, an image of a young guy who was deemed “the guy with surfer hair” did not visit a diving site; turns out he’s a philosophy major and of the 4 websites shown, the one he visited was a little unexpected. Just another reminder that you are not your user, you don’t think like them; so do some research and find out what they want, what makes them tick! Doing research can often surprise us, and by tuning into insights about how users think, what their goals are, and what they are looking for, we can avoid making the wrong decisions early in the process.

4. “Fall in Love”

– Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer, PepsiCo

BlogPostArtwork_DF17_5Ok you’re probably thinking “what does this have to do with design and business?” Mauro Porcini is the Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo and has been recognized as one of the “50 Most Influential Designers in America.” His keynote was inspiring, entertaining, and commanded attention all the way through. It’s clear that his design thinking is business thinking, and it doesn’t stop there.

As Mauro states, a design thinker’s mindset is about being in love. “When you’re in love, you try to do more, you try to surprise.” This kind of thinking can bring something really powerful to an organization. Putting it in these terms helps to wrap your head around the way someone might feel when they have an experience with your brand, and the opportunity that is there to design meaningful experiences that create an emotion. Design thinking can ensure the love of a product is there all the way through to launch.

5. “Design is about thinking about the person and how they want to experience something.”

-Phil Gilbert, General Manager of Design, IBM

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This quote is a good reminder that design goes beyond the visual aspect to really drive results. Great design comes from discovering what user’s needs and goals are at the start – and allowing these insights to guide the overall strategy. Design is about empathy at its core, and the ability to understand the particular audience you’re designing for. Design thinking can shift the focus from “design a new website with our blue and grey brand colors” to “design a better digital experience for people to learn about xyz.” Every project we touch at Elevated begins with understanding the user and their “why.” As Don Norman from UCSD puts it best, “Design is human-centered.”